The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Donna Tartt’

Daymares, and Other News

June 12, 2014 | by

5atress14

Arthur Tress, Child Buried in Sand, Coney Island, 196o, black-and-white photograph. Via Gothamist.

  • Charles Wright will be America’s next poet laureate. “I really don’t know what I’m supposed to do … But as soon as I find out, I’ll do it.”
  • Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is the literary novel of the moment—but it is any good? Many, including our own Lorin Stein, respond with a resounding no. “A book like The Goldfinch doesn’t undo any clichés—it deals in them … Nowadays, even The New York Times Book Review is afraid to say when a popular book is crap.”
  • Every moment of serious reading has to be fought for, planned for … A prediction: the novel of elegant, highly distinct prose, of conceptual delicacy and syntactical complexity, will tend to divide itself up into shorter and shorter sections, offering more frequent pauses where we can take time out. The larger popular novel … will be ever more laden with repetitive formulas, and coercive, declamatory rhetoric to make it easier and easier, after breaks, to pick up.”
  • A portfolio of Arthur Tress’s photographs, from the late sixties and seventies, of children at play in Coney Island: “Tress spoke with children about their dreams—often nightmares that involved falling, monsters, that buried alive scenario—and would then photograph them experiencing it in a safe, staged setting.”
  • New! From the makers of “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” it’s “Morrissey Has an Infection.”

NO COMMENTS

Ditching Dickensian

April 30, 2014 | by

Giving the lie to a critical crutch.

dickens-drawing

Illustration: Robert Ingpen

Copies of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch now bear an impressive gold foil sticker declaring it the “WINNER of the PULITZER PRIZE.” Before that accolade, though, critics had already branded the novel by using and abusing the adjective that’s launched a thousand blurbs—Dickensian. Despite, or perhaps because of, the ubiquity of the word in appraisals of the novel, such assessments are rarely issued without caveats. NPR’s Maureen Corrigan apologetically notes that the term “is one of those literary modifiers that’s overused”; in the New York Times Book Review, Stephen King somewhat ruefully acknowledged that he wouldn’t be the last to employ Dickensian to describe Tartt’s novel. He was right.

For all this critical concurrence, it’s less than clear what we mean by Dickensian, or, for that matter, by any adjective with a particular author at its root. Francine Prose leads her review of The Goldfinch with this very question: “What do people mean when they call a novel ‘Dickensian’?” As Prose notes, a number of answers present themselves—Dickensian can signify sentimentality, an attentiveness to the social conditions, a cast of comically hyperbolic characters, a reliance on plot contrivances, or even simply a book’s sheer length. (I suspect one rarely means the relatively slim A Tale of Two Cities or Hard Times when one labels a novel Dickensian.) In other words, the proliferation of the senses of Dickensian makes one wonder if it, or other such words, are critically useful at all. As Cynthia Ozick has recently complained with regard to Kafkaesque—another perennial—the word “has by now escaped the body of work it is meant to evoke.” Read More »

6 COMMENTS

Art and Literature Are Teeming with Monsters, and Other News

January 3, 2014 | by

Bosch Hell

Art credit Hieronymus Bosch.

 

NO COMMENTS

Authors in Uniform, and Other News

October 25, 2013 | by

donna-tarttlarge

  • From Twain to Wolfe to Tartt: authors in uniform.
  • Fittingly enough, fisticuffs at the Norman Mailer: A Double Life party.
  • The Asterix reboot, set in ancient Scotland, is being hailed by (a few, possibly as few as none) Scottish nationalists as an endorsement in the referendum debates.
  • The Iranian culture minister promises a relaxation of book censorship under the new regime.
  •  

    NO COMMENTS

    Notes from a Bookshop: Late Summer, or Summer Is a Kind of Island

    August 28, 2013 | by

    DeLillo

    3. Arcana

    Of one order are the mysteries of light
    and of another are those of fantasy
    Rider Tarot Deck instructions

    —Brenda Shaughnessy, Our Andromeda

    A good friend came to visit this spring, and a few times during her stay, she pulled a book off the shelves, either from Moody Road Studios or at my home, shuffled the pages under her thumb, and stuck a finger on a line like an arrow hitting a bull’s-eye. Then she’d read the single line aloud, a kind of party trick.

    This would typically happen when we’d be in the middle of a conversation, talking about some big questions that we were swirling at the time, the should-I-or-shouldn’t-I, will-this-work-or-not, should-I-take-this-chance kind of conversations that tend to occur after some Southern Comfort on a patio. She used whatever book was in her hand as a literary tarot, and believed the line would tell us all we needed to know. Usually, bizarrely, it worked.

    I tried this on my own, but it fell flat. After the house was asleep, I would pose a question in my head and stalk a book, pull it from the stack before it could resist, flip open its pages and point hungrily at it, waiting for its answer. Each time, the result was tinny, hard-pressed, wanting. It reminded me of late nights with my Ouija board as a kid, waiting desperately for something to speak to me when I was really just waiting for my own voice.

    People ask a lot of their books. They want them to be amazing, they want them to be cheap, they want them the moment they walk through my door. I often feel like a kind of carnival showman, flashing bright colors in front of the customer, hoping something catches their eye. People’s personal restrictions always amaze me. “I don’t read books with dogs in them.” “I don’t like to have to think too hard.” “I can’t buy books with white covers.” Really? Read More »

    11 COMMENTS

    Notes from a Bookshop: March, or Waiting for Redbird

    March 15, 2013 | by

    Picture 16

    “The sky was darker than the water
    it was the color of mutton-fat jade.”
    —Elizabeth Bishop, “The End of March”

    On more Saturday afternoons than not this month, I’ve watched swirls of snow blow past the blue door of our bookshop. The parking lots in town have small mountains of mud-encrusted snow piled in their corners, monuments to the length of this winter. At home, the firewood is running low, our freezer is nearly empty of the lamb we split with our neighbors back in the fall, and the local farmer’s market offerings have dwindled down to the last rutabagas from the root cellars. This has been a long winter, and everyone who comes into the bookshop looks a bit tired, drawn, impatient for spring and the promises that come with it.

    My favorite customer came in three weeks ago with his pregnant wife, her hair and eyes glowing, everything about her bursting with her own impending spring. Her husband is my favorite customer because he is my good luck charm—on the bookshop’s first Saturday he walked in and poked around until he found our poetry section. He gaped, not believing our little cache of modern poets. He revealed he was also a poet, had written his graduate thesis on Franz Wright. He’d grown up in town and I thought the presence of a local poet on one of our first days open was an auspicious sign. Read More »

    8 COMMENTS